The Girl in the Red Sweater

Essay by D.L. Ransom

Gugu. Photo by Kisty Stephens
Girl in red sweater…big brown eyes…HIV-free in a sea of otherwise. This little girl, so frail yet strong. My heart aches for her and all the others like her. The difference is I know we can change her life for the better. The phone calls and the fundraising and the figuring out of who, what, when on our side…the blood, sweat, fear, and tears on her side…together we will plod along, muddle through, ride the roller coaster that starts from two points on opposite sides of the globe, but come together at what I hope will be the end of a rainbow. Quitting now is not an option. She is counting on us…waiting for us to arrive and help pack her bags.

A connection: Why? I don’t know, I just feel a pull; a pull towards South Africa. Never have I even wanted to go to “that” place. “That” place is dry, barren, rugged, dangerous, and full of not only HIV but full-blown AIDS. Something has changed. Now I won’t discount the thought of such a journey, although my part in all of this quite possibly will remain on the U.S. home front, acting as the yellow pages…a construction worker laying foundations and roadways…a beacon home to where the heart is for the girl in the red sweater.

Gugu is her name. At this point in time, she is translucent…surreal…maybe even a little ghost-like since all I know of her is from the pictures and stories shared with me. I dream of touching her dark skin…her tiny slender arm…holding her close, kissing her forehead and welcoming her to her new home. She has become, for me, an angel…my South African angel.

As I pick up the phone, calling people whom I don’t even know but who have been dropped into my path on this, the Gugu sojourn, I feel my tiny angel on my shoulder…watching….waiting. She knows that we want her. She knows that we are working to bring her to her new home and she knows she is loved. What else she knows or thinks, I simply do not know. I want to know…to learn…to loosely stitch her into my heart and mind.

Every day my heart opens up for Gugu and spills out. Every night I hold my little one close to refill the chasm created by that slow leak. It wraps around us both…to bond…to heal…to connect…to keep him from ever feeling the way she always feels. I hold onto the moment where that will forever change and I let it serve as my catalyst. Not only is she my South African angel, she is my dragonfly warrior. Forced to reside in the present moment by her lot in life, but she remains a warrior who fights to stay strong and open to love.

A number of years back, my dear friend Kisty went to South Africa for an internship. Here she met this tiny beautiful soul and there was an instant connection between the two. Thanks to a horse wreck that left Kisty with a broken pelvis and without the ability to return to the U.S., they had in-depth time to get to know each other.

Gugu filled Kisty with a renewed sense of wonder and hope along with a greater appreciation for her own life. Upon her return to home, Kisty started looking into what it would take to adopt the South African Angel who touched her life and her heart. It’s been a long road and Gugu will turn ten this year. Kisty has suffered much, learned much, and is now ready, willing and determined to find a way to make this work and to give Gugu the life that most of us would want for any child. My role will be as godmother…hmmm…maybe fairy godmother is a more appropriate term.

Dedication, hope, faith, friendship, courage…the ingredients required for the very real possibility of this turning into a happy ending. Here’s to finding ways to make things happen instead of finding great excuses to not. Here’s to helping those who are presently HIV-free remain so and to lessening the pain of all who have felt the scorch from the far-reaching flames of this insidious virus. Here’s to bringing the girl in the red sweater home.

D.L. Ransom is a freelance writer with a graduate degree in psychology. She works for the underdog to diminish the scars inflicted by life’s challenges.

April 2012